Given that Team GDW have enjoyed a decent volume of live concert material throughout 2016, I wanted to share some of the performances that stood out from the crowd and gave me a stronger appreciation for a particular artist/song based upon the raw emotions generated. These following 10 tracks are not in any order of preference, but in reverse-chronological order of our live concert dates (caveat: narrowing down to ten tracks from over 25 bands means that some ‘headliners’ have not made the cut).
Great Lake Swimmers: “Somewhere near Thunder Bay”
It may well be that I had heard this track live three times in 2016, and could not locate it in my CD collection, but I discovered that this was a cut from Tony Dekker’s solo album, “Prayer of the Woods.” We have since added the album to our collection, and it always sounds great – I will never tire of this track.
I had little familiarity with this band, but knew this song from recent radio airplay. I was not prepared, however, for the raw delta-blues sound that this track delivers live. Gordon Auld’s vocals not only grab your attention from the opening line, but hold you in a vice like grip until the end.
The Franklin Electric: “This is how I let you down”
What can I say? I did not want to give any one performance a more biased, favorable review over the others, but for me, Jon Matte absolutely blew me away with this live rendition at The Horseshoe Tavern. The moving piano and vocal intro is impossible to ignore, as is the gradual inclusion of the band throughout the song. Jon’s powerful delivery during the bridge, and strong piano emphasis (tied in with the fantastic lighting and stage effects) made this my most memorable live song of the year. This one live song was worth the price of admission alone.
Tokyo Police Club: “Not my girl”
This was our first “unsure what to expect tonight” kind of concert. We knew that the band had a post-modern punk revival sound that appealed to a much different demographic. When the group opened the set with this track, I knew immediately that this would be a great show. The raw energy on display from Graham Wright and Josh Hook on guitars (reminiscent of bands like The Clash) was relentless, and amazing to experience all night.
Justin Rutledge: “Jack of Diamonds”
It was back in 2014 when I found Justin’s “The Early Widows” CD at an independent music store in Pennsylvania. I instantly loved the material. This would be the only live track from this album performed by Justin at Mills Hardware, but enough to please me upon hearing the distinctive opening bass line. Much appreciated for bringing this one back to life Justin – thank you!
Royal Wood: “A world between us”
Having followed this artist for several years, we jumped on the opportunity to see him live and hear tracks from the amazing “Ghost Light” album. For me, this track is what separates Royal Wood from the pack: great vocals, great songwriting, great harmonies – just a phenomenal song that gives me goosebumps every time.
Blue Rodeo: “Hasn’t hit me yet”
No, I could not exclude Blue Rodeo from my list. Having attended four Blue Rodeo shows in ten months, this track remained a consistent piece of their encore set. The version in particular for me was from their Sanderson Center performance, where Jim and Greg stood center stage to feed off the crowd participation of the first verse, whilst keeping time with mandolin and acoustic guitar. As my favorite Blue Rodeo song, failure to include this was not an option. I could easily hear this live another 100 times and still want more.
Jason Collett: “Almost Summer”
I will openly admit that this opening act for Bahamas was a complete unknown to me. Unfamiliar with both Jason Collett and The Broken Social Scene (since rectified, I might add), Jason proved to be a very gifted storyteller/lyricist that entertained the crowd with tales behind the songs. This track provided stories of his first experiences with love/kisses/toking (pot) and the after effects of such actions from one night in his life – this tale has left this track forever etched as the funniest song I have heard all year.
Brandi Carlile: “The Story”
This is the only non-Canadian artist on my list. Team GDW follow a select list of non-Canadian folk-rock acts, and for me, Brandi is one of the best. This version of her hugely popular hit performed at Hershey Theater was one of those “you had to be there” moments, simultaneously raising the roof and bringing the house down in one swift movement.
Son of Ray: “No Regrets”
During Son of Ray’s opening set for Great Lake Swimmers in May, I enjoyed immensely their harmonica laced brand of old school rock and roll. This particular track closed their set and became ‘that’ song that I simply could not stop humming for several weeks afterward. Hopefully Son of Ray are out there making new music right now, because they certainly etched themselves as permanent fixtures on our musical radar.